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African Sacred Ibis - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Mike Barth
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 30 June 2011
Threskiornis aethiopicus

Threskiornis aethiopica


Length 68 cm (26¾")

  • All-white body plumage
  • Dark plumes on the rump
  • Bald head and neck
  • Thick curved bill
  • Dark eyes
  • Black legs
  • A black rear border to the wings is visible in flight
Photo © by David Flack
Kotu Creek, The Gambia, 7 March 2017

Sexes are similar, but juveniles have dirty white plumage, a smaller bill and some feathering on the neck.

Similar species

Malagasy Sacred Ibis shows pale eyes, shorter bill, less black in wing tips, and no obvious neck sack.


Sub-Saharan Africa, and south-eastern Iraq. It has also been introduced into France, Italy, and Spain.


Forms a superspecies [6] with Australian Ibis and Black-headed Ibis which have been split from this species.


This is a monotypic species[1].

Photo © by GiGi
Rochepann, South Africa, 3 September 2006

Malagasy Sacred Ibis and African Sacred Ibis were previously treated as one species, Sacred Ibis. This split has now been accepted by all major checklists: Clements 2019[1], Dickenson & Remsen (2014)[4] , Gill & Donsker (2018)[5] , Matheu et al. (2018)[7] and BirdLife International (2008)2 as recommended by Lowe & Richards (1991)[6].


Occurs in marshy wetlands and mud flats, both on the coast and inland, and it can be found also in agricultural areas and rubbish dumps.



The diet includes invertebrates and their larvae, worms, fish, frogs, fish and other aquatic creatures, carrion, refuse as well as the eggs of colonial nesting birds and crocodiles.


Monogamous and colonial. Nest usually in trees, but sometimes on ground. Often mixed with other waders such as herons. The 2 or 3 eggs are laid on a large platform stick nest.


Mostly silent, but occasionally makes some croaking noises.


Nomadic or migratory. Movements of several hundred kilometers to breed during rains.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. BirdLife International
  3. de Boer L. E. M., van Brink J. M. (1982) Cytotaxonomy of the Ciconiiformes (Aves), with karyotypes of eight species new to cytology. Cytogenet Genome Res 34:19-34.
  4. Dickinson, E.C. and Remsen, J.V. ed. 2014. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. 4th ed. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0956861122
  5. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2020. IOC World Bird List (v 10.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.10.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  6. Lowe, K. W.; Richards, G. C. (1991). Morphological Variation in the Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus Superspecies Complex PDF. Emu. 91 (1): 41–45. doi:10.1071/MU9910041. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  7. Matheu, E., del Hoyo, J., Christie, D.A., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2018). African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52753 on 10 July 2018).
  8. http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/content/animals/animals/birds/ibis.htm

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1